“@SenateMajLdr Silencing Coretta Scott King from the grave is disgusting & disgraceful. She was right about #StopSessions. #LetLizSpeak,” wrote the Congressional Black Caucus on Twitter Tuesday evening.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) was prevented from speaking on the floor of the United States Senate for invoking the words of Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow.
Sen. Warren was speaking during the confirmation hearings of President Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala). She was told to stop talking by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as she read from a letter in opposition to Sen. Sessions’ consideration for a federal judgeship in 1986. (In 1986, when Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) called Sen. Session's bid for a federal judgeship a "disgrace," he was not silenced.)
“Mr. Sessions [during his time as a prosecutor in Alabama] used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens,” read Mrs. Scott King’s 1986 letter.
Sen. McConnell cited the obscure Rule XIX, which reads: “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”
Take note: The rule was not invoked when Sen Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) accused Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of "bitter, vulgar, incoherent ramblings" and deemed his leadership "cancerous."
The hypocrisy is stunning. The Republican senators are aping Trump's refusal to consider dissent, an essential part (or once was) of the collegiality between Senate colleagues.
Voting along party lines, the Senate voted 49-43 to reject Sen. Warren’s push to overturn the Republican ruling that she had violated Senate rules.
Echoing many other senators and commentators online, Sen. Warren replied to the sit-down order: “I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate.”
Fellow Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) likened the events to “censure,” adding he was “aggrieved and “shocked,” at the move by Senate Republicans. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), called the move an “outrage.”
A second outrage: Despite ample evidence that Trump donor Betsy DeVos was singularly unqualified to be Education Secretary, she was confirmed by a historical VP vote to break a Senate tie. It's another example of the lethal partisanship dominating the Senate since Trump’s cabinet nominees began the confirmation process.
The tense and abrasive nature of the hearings is likely to continue as the president's often controversial picks slowly sneak through with tight votes.
The U.S. Senate plans to vote today on Sen. Sessions’ confirmation.